Sunday Sevens – Rejuvenation

Seven little things

I love reading the Sunday Sevens posts – the idea was created by Nat at Thread’s and Bobbins – a snapshot of everyone’s week. It’s been an amazing concept that has brought bloggers together as well as giving a regular discipline to blog regularly.

I have been a bit his and miss with my participation, mostly because my weeks aren’t all that fascinating! I grew up in a world before Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – there’s a small part of me that still feels a slight discomfort at the selfies and status updates, it all feels a uncomfortably narcissistic, but blogging is an opportunity to write. Given my love of talking… it is a perfect combination!

Rejuvenate

1 -My theme for the week

The focus of my week has been about rejuvenation and creation of self nurture rituals- from the wonderful book Well being by Barbara Close. It is a delightful read – a holistic approach to health by season. She describes the book as a Self Care Manual, to enhance your body’s ability to heal itself and reawaken your senses to the rewarding rituals of natural healing.

Rituals seems a rather strange in our modern thinking – conjuring up notions of witchcraft or religious ceremony, yet they form part of our everyday lives – brushing my teeth can be considered a ritual because I do it everyday. However, the invitation is to integrate the sacred into the every day, doing things that cultivate self care. It is the mindful attention that elevates any activity into ritual. In our time poor society, I am usually multi-tasking, but I notice that when I spend time focussing on one thing, it can be delightful sensuous adventure.

The problem with health is that we don’t really think about it until we get ill. In a week of near constant six days of migraine, health has been quite high on my agenda this week. As much as I would like to simply go to bed in a darkened room, I suffer migraines at least once a month and sometimes they last for up to ten days, taking that much time off is not an option. It feels like I am trying to do anything that will appease the Gods drumming inside my head! Mindful attention (or mindfulness) is a way to distract myself, and it sometimes helps.

 

Blood orange

2 -Sensual Experience

Scott came down with a bug this week, dosing up with Vitamin C is supposedly the best treatment.   Blood oranges are in season, they look amazing don’t they? We started on Monday, continuing most of the week, with freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast.

I love doing this because recently I bought the most amazing juicer, (the dome ones that you do by hand) it is so good when something works! I cannot tell you how sensuous it was to press the orange and feel the give as  the blood coloured liquid poured out! You get sticky hands, I scoop up the pulp and eat it greedily. Blood oranges makes dark red juice – which tastes so intensely of orange,  refreshingly strong and not overly sweet.  It is a divine pleasure and after all that hard work, it feels luxurious.

There are fond memories connected with this sensual activity: my Grandpop  would deliver breakfast in bed to my Grandma every day – which included alongside the freshly squeezed orange juice, tea and special K cereal and always a single flower from the garden. My Grandma was like the queen: kindly and scary at the same time, she lived until she was 96!

moody beach

3 – Adventures beyond four walls

The evenings are getting lighter and I have adjusted my working hours to finish at 4 – so Barney and I have been going for longer walks. Last Tuesday the day was gloriously sunny but by 4 a sea mist had rolled in creating a strange atmosphere, there were a few people about but not many. We headed to the beach, as it was low tide, I enjoy the sinking sensation of walking on wet sand and you can walk for miles! The sun looked like the moon the mist was so strong, but I have added a filter to the picture, which has given it a strange glow!

Barney on the Beach

Barney doesn’t quite get the concept of paying ball, he believes the task is to catch the ball and keep it safe, so I end up having to walk to where he is and grapple to get the ball back to throw it again. I usually manage 4 times before he refuses to give up the ball.  He is such a smiley dog, making lots of friends every where we go, but as you can see he takes his ball guarding role very seriously!

Hot Chocolate

4 -This week’s bliss

We have the tiniest kitchen ever so I tend not to purchase kitchen gadgets – however I had my eye on a milk steamer for at least four weeks before buying one. It is the best gadget I’ve bought in a long while. We had a Tassimo but I dread to think what the pouches contain – I like to know what I am drinking.

My hot chocolate could not be any easier to make – I put the cup in a bowl of boiling water, and pop three or four Montezuma’s dark 73percent Couverture buttons to melt. (I don’t have a microwave) I pour a cup of milk in the steamer and press the button, in less than a minute the milk is hot just like ice-cream! It is heavenly.

Reading for pleasure

5 -What I am reading..

Last month at our WI – a lovely lady did a talk on patchwork, it was fascinating! She gave us a potted history of Quilting and how the tradition travelled with the pilgrims to America.

What I didn’t know was how quilting bee’s  brought the communities together – women were so isolated when they headed West – quilting was a way you could get to know your neighbours. Quilts were also used to cover the wagons because they offered protection from arrows!

She mentioned, in passing, the Little House on the Prairie which I adored when I was growing up. I never read the books so I decided I would give it a try, starting with the first book The Little House in the Big Woods it is a charming book! Living in England it is so hard to imagine living anywhere so far from neighbours or civilisation! The cosiness of the little wooden home and the way she describes  -it is captivating. I think it must have been an extremely hard life, especially for her mother, but it is wonderful adventure to enjoy, in bed under my warm quilts!

I’ve become not just nostalgic for the TV series (yes it is onTrue Entertainment 7am! followed by the Waltons!) I feel the urge to make one of those those gorgeous holly hobbie rag dolls!

Leek and potato Soup

6 – Seasonal Pleasures

Chicken soup is the soul food when you are feeling poorly, however, in true pioneer style, not having any chicken in the house, I decided to make do with what we had! It wasn’t any hardship. We get a delivery of organic fruit and veg to our door every Thursday, from a local farm in Oving. Having tried Able and Cole and Riverford, I have to say this is a better supplier. I think it is because they are small and genuinely local less than 5 miles away. It is a good way to connect with the seasons and so we have been living on potatoes, leeks, swede and carrots for a while.

Soup for the soul

I made leek and potato soup – the leeks smelt divine I am certain they were in the ground the previous day! I added in Tumeric and garlic because they are both anti viral foods, and while it might not have been up to Mr D’s impeccable standards, (he is the chef in our house and bears the sole responsibility for my waistline) the soup made me feel better. The sore throat, that had developed on Wednesday was gone by Friday but sadly the headaches have outstayed their welcome.

Home spa

7 – Highlight of the week

There is nothing more rejuvenating than a bath – what ever has happened in my life – laying in hot water has always helped me to pick myself up again. Well being includes many bath recipes – you can either make your own mega tea bags – which allow the herbs to seep, or you can hang a jelly bag over your taps and let the water flow through the herbs. Once again, it makes taking a bath a sensual experience, if you also combine a few drops of essential oils – it is simply soothing to the weary body and soul.

My personal favourite at the moment is oats, milk and rose essential oil, oats are alkaline, and they soften the skin which it is especially good for eczema. After you have let the water run through the oats, twist it closed and wash your body with it. (Dried powdered milk perfect – as is ordinary oats!) The Rose oil is the most expensive item, and expect to pay around £15 for a small bottle, anything less and you aren’t getting the essential oil. You can even add rose petals which float around you for that added luxury. (although it is wise to cover the plug with one of the sink stoppers to save blocking the drains… explaining to a plumber why your drains are full of rose petals might not be the such a pleasant experience!)

I would not have survived without peppermint oil this week – applied as a cold compress with a flannel, it has lifted some of the nausea enough to be able to get on with life.

Next week’s theme is playful…

Happy Sunday..

ttfn x

Susanna

 

 

 

 

Sunday Sevens – Rainy days and Sundays

spring fowers

It has been a hectic week at work, I am feeling somewhat frazzled and in need of restoration. The fog outside is creating a strange sort of atmosphere today, the ticking of the clock and the occasional whoosh from the cars driving through the puddles outside are all the sounds I can hear. Its rainy day weather, as I write everyone in the house is sleeping and even the dog ran back to the house this morning, not wanting his usual long walk in the woods.

spring flowers 2

Romancing the Ordinary, (yes that book again!)

Sometimes at the end of a tough week, I’m too frazzled and restless to watch a film or nap. What can I do besides whine? Rainy day cupboards were the saving grace of Victorian Mothers. In these treasure troves of inspiration were neat and clearly marked boxes of craft supplies, games and novelties that were only enjoyed on a rainy day. Same clever concept what about a neat clearly marked projects adapted to capture the interest of a tired jaded woman.

Two caveats ensure the success of this tradition, novelty and preparation. These should not be crafts that are your normal activity, experiment, browse the craft aisle of your local store for projects in a box. Or create your own, put all the ingredients for a new recipe in a box purely for a day such as this.

When you open the cupboard everything you need should be there, its been my experience that rainy day fun has about 3 minutes to hold my interest before I sigh and slink back into my chair.

March might be the beginning of spring, but it is also known for wet windy weather so it is  easy to slip into despondency about rainy days, but they can be brightened up by doing something new.

I love novelty – you can get lovely little storage boxes from the stationery store or there are little craft packs that come with magazines – Mollie Makes this month came with a pretty little loom. I think I might start putting a few of these together for the next rainy day, I am pretty certain I won’t be waiting all that long! I also like the idea of a small project that can be done in an afternoon.

blue and white

So this wet Sunday, I’ve been experimenting with a bit of photography, and while the light isn’t great on a rainy day, it has been a bit of fun. I’ve been following a blog for a while now, it is heavily religious but the posts fill me with inspiration because the photography is so good (I tend to skim the text!)

 

Our home is still in a bit of a muddle, the garage is full of boxes I need to sort out but as I have gone through things box by box, I have been acquainted with all the small treasures that give me delight. This little jug and saucer set is quite small, but the colour is such a delightful cheery yellow – I can’t resist the spring colour. I picked it up in a charity shop for £2.

Easter might be some time away, but the tulips, daffodils and crocus are pushing their way through the darkness, even though they are battered by the wind, they still flower. The garden is full of buds, the willow has lovely white tufts and I noticed the cherry tree is beginning to bud. I’ve planted some seeds – deciding to focus on flowers rather than veg, we get an organic box delivery every week. There is nothing more delightful than cutting your own flowers and bringing them indoors. I’ve chosen a fragrant sweet pea variety – when they flower you have to continually pick them and they are wonderful to give to friends. You almost never, see them in the shops. I’ve also planted chamomile, lemon balm and enchinacia. I have some dahlia tubers to pot up, so it should be a fragrant summer. The cosmos won the race, with this lovely shoot appearing in a matter of days.

We had a lovely lunch with friends yesterday, afterwards the guys went to a pub to watch the rugby and we headed of to look for curtain material. It is shocking how much it costs to make curtains! Jo has a huge bay window  – while I am happy to help it is going to be a huge undertaking. We have a wonderful warehouse place just outside of Chichester called Falcon Fabrics and we found a number of lovely fabrics there.

Pink roses study

We made the last 15 minutes of the Rugby game, England did very well which pleased me, poor Scott was sad to see his team lose. It is always a good atmosphere watching these matches in the pub rather than home.

roses and lace

This week was the first meeting of our writing group and it went really well. We have arranged a creative date in a couple of weeks. The idea comes from the Artist’s way, where you make regular outings or time to do something creative. We intend to visit three different locations in Chichester – and spend some time in each. I am looking forward to it, and I am enjoying writing and have a short story to complete by next week.

Yellow flowers springI’ve used Picasa to edit my photographs – however I notice that when they are uploaded the processing is not as good as it could be. The pictures are a bitt fuzzy and blurry, mainly due to the reduction in size so that they will load quicker.

The light balance in my camera is not great, I have adapted the settings, but I will have to set up some proper lighting instead of relying on the daylight coming through the window.

So I might look into photoshop – I haven’t used it for years – and it is always good to try something new. I also need to get some new memory for my Mac – these things seem to use much more resources. However, it has been fun, composing and experimenting with photography for a change and making the most of a rainy day.

Happy Sunday!

 

 

Book Review – The Taxidermist’s Daughter Kate Mosse

taxidermists-daughter

It is wonderful to read a story set in your own small corner of the world, Kate Mosse is a local writer and this is the first book I’ve read that features many of the local landmarks. I loved hearing the names of places I know well, Chichester and Fishbourne which is where Kate grew up. You can read an article about the house that inspired this tale here.

What Kate does well, is to write evocatively about a place – I loved that about Winter Ghosts and I began this book almost straight after finishing Winter Ghosts, but this tale is darker and more macabre.

Sussex, 1912. In a churchyard, villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are thought to be seen. Here, where the estuary leads out to the sea, superstitions still hold sway.

Standing alone is the taxidermist’s daughter. At 17, Constantia Gifford lives with her father in a decaying house: it is all that is left of Gifford’s once world-famous museum of taxidermy. The stuffed animals that used to grace every parlour are out of fashion, leaving Gifford a disgraced and bitter man.

The bell begins to toll and all eyes are fixed on the church. No one sees the gloved hand pick up a flint. As the last notes fade into the dark, a woman lies dead.

While the village braces itself against rising waters and the highest tide of the season, Connie struggles to discover who is responsible, but finds herself under suspicion. Is Constantia who she seems – is she the victim of circumstances or are more sinister forces at work? And what is the secret that lies at the heart of Gifford House, hidden among the bell jars of her father’s workshop?

Told over one summer, The Taxidermist’s Daughter is the haunting new novel from the bestselling author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre, Citadel and The Winter Ghosts.

I have to admit the detailed description of the process of taxidermy described early on in the book made me feel slightly squeamish. I can’t say that it endeared me to Connie, I found it took a while to really get into the book. It was like catching glimpses in the mist, the sense of place, the marshes and the ebbing water – play just as big a role in this tale along with the characters.

wash stand Petworth Cottage Museum

The tale unfolds gradually, the lives of Gifford and his daughter resonate strongly with the sense of decay. Their art is no longer sought after or appreciated, but, Kate makes it very clear, it may be macabre but it is an Art of its own. It made me look at taxidermy in a different light – the skill is in preserving life, forever -from the smallest bird to the well loved dog.

It is gruesome in parts, especially the murders – but then it is why this tale hangs together, so reminiscent of Victorian Gothic – you get a sense of chilling in your bones, as the tidal waters rise, the crows circling or roosting in packs, even though it is more Edwardian than Victorian, it is a delightfully suspenseful tale.

01-img_2540

Kate’s sense of  of place is masterly, cosy tap rooms of local Public houses, an austere asylum, chilly carriage rides and living beside the frosty ebbing and flowing estuary mirroring the Giffords’ place in the community. We also have gallantry and just the wisp of romance .. if only the two lovers had a chance.

It’s a good read, one definitely for cold winter nights with a crackling fire – to ward off the chill of the mist and fog, in good gothic style.

If you loved Susan Hill’s The woman in Black, then you’ll enjoy this. (When, dear Susan, will you write another Gothic novel?)

I can’t wait to see what Kate Writes next…

Self Compassionate Diet and finding the Erotic in every day.

tea-in-bed

It has been an interesting journey recently – last week I came down with a flu type bug which resulted in spending a lot of time in bed, sleeping resting and delightfully, reading.

It is no coincidence that my illness follows a month or so of stress, worry and a busy workload, but when I woke up on Tuesday morning, with every part of my body aching so much that it hurt to simply walk – I could do nothing else, but rest.

This year has been a joyful one in many ways, when I set out to follow the Romancing the Ordinary, I did not expect it would open out so many areas of my life – call it synchronicity, or  serendipity, but I have discovered some wonderful books recently.

 

You may already know that I have been feeling uneasy about the weight gain I had in the last three years, but I am not really a dieter. My upbringing was so strict and disciplinarian that the adult rebels anything that imposes rules and regulations.  What I eat isn’t the greatest challenge, I think it is something to do with why I eat and how I eat that makes me gain weight.

To focus on the outward only – as in reducing calorie intake has always sparked bingeing and the self reproach that goes with it. Dieting and along the exercise programmes feel like punishment – which is not the best way to make life long changes.

Who on earth wants to spend their lives disconnected from all that gives them comfort and joy?

I read Dr Moseley’s 8 week blood sugar diet – and began to follow the diet plan – until one day, I found myself looking longingly at a bunch of bananas. My body wanted a banana more than anything else and the berating bully shouted NO NO in my head. A day later I had a binge of eating not just a banana but spent a sublime 20 minutes messily eating a mango – it was delicious! (Bananas and mangos are forbidden in the diet, as is most carbohydrates). Maybe I need to read a diet plan that forbids salads, fresh fruit and vegetables?

food-and-love

The quote above is in both books I am reading at the moment, The Compassionate Diet and  Soul and Spirituality is about bringing the Erotic into the every day…yes, you did read that correctly, erotic and soul in the same sentence!  It is all about the senses, with little essays about each sense inviting a connection to the delicate sensual experiences from our body which are mostly overlooked or simply ignored. Sadly, the only time I give my body attention is when it lets me down, when I am in pain or suffering.

For me, who has spent a great deal of my life disconnected below the shoulders, connecting with the body is the first step to really getting to grips with food. I’ve forgotten what real hunger feels like and sometimes I am eating watching TV that I am not aware that I am full.

I have been practising Yoga for a little while now, one day I felt a sudden heat rising through my spine, and it took the exercise onto a whole different level. Yoga invites me to really inhabit my body, every single inch of it – right down to my toes. It is that awareness of this wonderful vessel that serves our soul, the first bitter sip of a latte, the feel of soft grass wet with dew between your toes, the tender warmth of a hand holding mine. This discover offers a tiny strand of hope – that I can discern what is an emotional hunger and what is genuine, belly gurgling hunger. Exploring the sensations of the body, which this week has been painful and sore, has been necessary!

the-power-of-loving-kindness

The Self Compassion Diet is not a prescriptive diet plan as such, you won’t find diet recipes here, but you do get a menu of options to approach weight loss from the inside out: Self Compassion, Hypnosis, Mindfulness, Social Support  and Continuing education. You can pick one or pick them all. I am beginning with Self Compassion – and it is making a difference already.

Diets usually come with a list of prohibited foods as I have already mentioned, – do’s and don’ts which seems a great approach – I have a clear idea of what I am supposed to do and, for a time, while my motivation is high, I get a sense of achievement. But life isn’t like that, I get bored or there times of stress where I need comfort… which usually takes the form of sweetness for me.  Then I have no-where to go, I’ve broken the rules, in the world of good and bad, I am now a bad person because a good person never slips up. You see how it all becomes so negative. And don’t get me started on my inner critic who just loves to join the party and tell me what a failure I am, and how I will just end up getting bigger and bigger….. ENOUGH.

mindfulness

Self compassion isn’t like that, there is no black and white – it is accepting where you are without judgement. Self compassion sees us for what we are; we don’t have to be saint or sinner, we are loved and accepted as we are. We don’t have to walk on a tightrope, we can simply acknowledge that we will fail sometimes – that is part of life, it is how things are, we made a mistake but who doesn’t? Let it go and continue towards the goal… doesn’t that feel more achievable?

To put it another way, if you are training for a marathon which coach would you prefer? One that is like an Army Sergeant – yelling at us, berating us at ever step and challenging us that whatever we do is not good enough? Or think of the kindest person you know, the person who makes you feel good about yourself, but gently encourages and nurtures the small steps we take.

self-kindness

While I might not be able to follow the 8 week blood sugar diet, I can still accommodate the desire to reduce my dependency on sugar. I set my intention to reduce the amount of sugar in my food, and I acknowledge that there is a deep seated part of me that needs something sweet and comforting in times of stress. So, I have been exploring ways to nurture and satisfy that – so when I reach for the biscuit tin it is full of home made biscuits that offer more of a satisfying energy boost.

Like all things when you follow your heart, the universe offers such fabulous opportunities  – this weekend I was invited to a food demonstration on how to reduce refined sugar in your diet, from two lovely ladies who are ‘food coaches’, I’ve never heard of a food coach before. In two short hours I came away with fabulous recipes for delicious, sweet and nutritious foods.. I will share with you soon, I promise. Especially the low sugar, non fat chocolate pudding… yum!

 

 

Blogging Reflection

journal writing

Every so often I wonder what I am doing here… as in writing this blog – why I feel the need to write and put my thoughts out there in the world.

I discovered my dog eared, well thumbed copy of The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket the other day. Published in 2007 (how time flies!) I can recall the moment I fell in love with this book, I was kneeling in front of the shelves labelled ‘hobbies’ right in the middle of a large Bookshop, the strange quiet of subdued voices that seems to unique to bookshops and libraries, together the hiss of the steamer from the cafe in the corner. Gentle Arts gave me that prickly sensation you get when something resonates with your soul. A yearning for the joys of domestic pleasures that was so at odds with everyone else around me at the time.

Sweet crust pastry

I was surrounded by friends who were perplexed at my desire for stitchery, my longing to hook wool into submission and while they were delighted with home made cake their eyebrows shot up in horror when I told them that the dress they admired was actually home made. (oh really? why would you bother, Primark is so cheap?). Can you believe it was ten years ago?

07-Cotton reel

Within the pages of the book was a woman who also admitted to the yearning to knit, or the joy to be discovered within one’s own four walls and the desire to create harmony and beauty. The book led me to her beautiful blog and the blogger within me was born. Sadly, she no longer blogs as you will see if you click the link, but I clung to her like a lifeboat in those days – there was someone out there who felt like I do. And isn’t that why we feel a desire to write our blogs? I know for me – I feel connected with other like minded women who are just like me.

decorated cup cake

Thankfully,  when I moved to Sussex in 2011, I have since found many like minded women, and creativity has gained a resurgence in popularity – thank goodness.

Blogging has been a bumpy adventure, my first blog on blogger went virtually unread for over a year – it seemed nigh on impossible to get readers because the platform promotes blogs by readers..mine remained in the frozen wasteland of zero readers at the bottom of page 3000 or something.  A change to WordPress made it easier, and it is thanks to Bekki and her encouragement and comments in the early days, that gave me hope to continue.

shortbread

A big bump in the road, is all the promotion and PR you are told to do in the early stages to get readers, that I nearly lost my way a little. Thankfully, I seem to have settled into my blog, by ignoring most of the ‘expert advice’.

Namely: I did not keep my blog on one subject only – because that wasn’t what I was blogging for, I wanted to share and write about my own journey and my many interests.

I also love reading other people’s blogs – I find other people fascinating- and I have come across so many creative people across the world -that the loneliness of that woman kneeling in front of a bookshelf – is just a memory.

herbal-tea-apple-and-cinnamon

It’s taken me a while – to find my voice, to let my blog evolve and to share what makes my heart sing, and it is also a wonderful record of my journey in the last few years! Who knows what the future holds.. technology changes all the time, but right now, I am enjoying writing, and hopefully, dear reader, you are enjoying reading..;-)

 

Dieter’s Delight- a poem by Susanna Di Milo

Cheese cake Aga

 

I’m going on a diet

That’s it!

I’ve had enough!

That woman,

in the mirror

My Goodness,

she looks rough!

 

Yes!

I’m going on a diet

Because nice clothes

Only come in

‘Thin’

And Skinny jeans

rarely

these days

Go

beyond

my shin.

 

That’s it –

I’m going on a diet

I’ll only eat fish

and rye

Vegetables

fruit,

and salads

Are all

that’ll catch

my eye

 

I’m going on a diet

Carbs

will never

pass my lips

Because

they have

a nasty habit

Of parking

on my hips!

 

I’m going on a diet

I’ve read the latest fad

Smoothies are good

And food

on the whole

is bad

 

Yes!

I am going on a diet

I will never

tell a lie

But it starts

tomorrow

So I’ll have

another

slice

of

pie.

 

(c)2017 Susanna Di Milo.. feel free to share but add the link back, thanks.

 

 

,

 

 

 

Finding your passion- you actually don’t have to find it, it will seek you out!

winter-bloom

What a year it has been… and it is only February! Right now the sun is streaming through the windows, the sky is blue and it is a heavenly day!

As you know I’ve been reading ‘Romancing the Ordinary’ – (it is a year long book, so I might be mentioning it a lot!) Of course when we get to February it is only right that we talk about Passion – but  it is not about the romantic Mills and Boon Passion – no, it is about the deep passion that reaches right down to the soul.

Now, if any of you are the soul searching types, one refrain of this ‘self empowerment movement’ is the concept of your soul’s purpose. Now, my soul’s purpose has bothered me for many, many of the years I’ve been reading self improvement books – because I had no idea what on earth I was supposed to do. It actually frustrated me – call me ‘special’ but I was ignoring every single clue!

Well, now, I will let you into the secret of finding your passion, if you want to know where your passion lies, it is in the question nearly every adult asks a child… what do you want to be when you grow up?

Now, if you had asked me what I wanted to be aged 12 – 16, I would tell you that I wanted with every fibre of my being, to be a writer.

 

This beautiful quote is from Happy Tech – click here.

 

Well, even though I knew what I wanted to do – I somehow got lost along the way, it was always my dream.. but somewhere between the age of 12 and 50, the whole idea has been shelved, all for good logical reasons.

1 – When my English teacher pleaded, unsuccessfully, for my parents to send me to university because he believed in my talent as a writer. I decided that I needed to go to university to be a writer. I thought I had a great excuse, until a work place offered to send me to university as part of my job – so I could earn and study at the same time.

I’ would like to say, that as soon as I finished my course I started writing… but no – I came up with another excuse.

can-you-remember
Image from I can read – click on link for more!

2- I attended a writer’s conference, where a publishing agent told the assembled crowd of hopeful writers – that it is impossible to get your book published. The world of publishing was in decline, every day, twenty or thirty unsolicited scripts landed on her desk, most of which would not even be read. Poor woman, she was embittered by her industry and she made sure that our dreams were well and truly squashed in the 20 minute talk.

Fifteen years later – we can publish an ebook without having to go through the eye of the needle that was literary agents or publishers. Love her or hate her, Shades of Grey began life as a blog – if she can do it, then anyone can. Just like a poet can put out their poetry you tube or a singer can sing their song, there are no gatekeepers any more.

3 -I don’t have the time.. I used to have a lovely job driving round the New Forest in my open topped sports car visiting people in outlying chocolate box villages.. where I would find myself passing the time as stories and ideas came in every direction. I never wrote a single one of them down.

The frightening thing about not following your passion, and you may have justifiable reasons is that in the end you will have to surrender…

I changed my job, to a busier one, Managing a large team- that took all my energy and had me working 12 hour days… I burnt out, very quickly – ending up unable to stop crying in the Christmas Decorations Isle in Tesco of all places.

3 – so Six years, Yes, Six years ago, I took a less demanding job, one that offers again, time and space for writing. Despite my best efforts to make my job more demanding – it all fell pretty flat- in fact every time I have pushed to expand my role, it has been well and truly crushed, until in the end I have to accept the work for what it was and put my energy into something else.

I’ve had readings, quotes that have dropped into my Pinterest feed, my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed. twitter.. that is a lot of feeding. (I did say I was ‘special’)

So, now we come to what happened to me this week! I had an email on Tuesday from an awesome lady I am delighted to call a friend, inviting me to attend a workshop with her entitled ‘finding your voice’.

girl-with-dreams
You can find this lovely quote on this website.. interestingly entitled procrastination!

Now, the twelve year old writer would have jumped up in delight, but the 50 year old practical woman responded that she had to work that day.

Well,  here is the warning in this cautionary tale, dear reader, by 4pm I was feeling exhausted, so much so that I went to bed and slept for two hours. The following morning, every muscle ached, I was in terrible pain throughout my body, tiny darts of pain and throbbing shot through my calves, my hips and my arms. I had to call in sick and go back to bed and sleep. I slept until 2pm and then woke up groggy.

I sat up in bed and drank some tea, and picked up a book from a pile next to the bed, it was all I had the energy for and read the following:

There are so may insidious ways that we betray ourselves Self sacrifice is one of the more popular for women because it is condoned by society. Do we get extra points for suffering? I don’t think so. Did you know that both the Koran and the Talmud teach that we will be called to account for every permissible pleasure life has offered us and that we have refused to enjoy while on Earth. I don’t know about you but I shudder to think about that reckoning.

Is devotion to the needs of others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed?  Anais Nin asks. ‘I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.

Something More, excavating your authentic self, Sarah Ban Breathnach

What words! – it took me about half an hour to wrestle with the guilt I’ve carried since my first child was born, (where all this ‘self sacrifice’ began).  I first emailled the course co-ordinator certain that the course would be full. I had an email back saying they had booked me in… (I was only enquiring if they had space.. another excuse blown) Within an hour I was feeling well, the pain subsided and I was well enough to work the next day and book the leave. No-one batted an eyelid, at the late notice – the sky wasn’t about to fall in because I had booked some time for me.

finding-your-passion-writing

I think God, the universe or what ever you like to call destiny has a sense of humour! The course was run by the ‘Choose  to Work’ team run by the local City Council.

The course invitation included these words…

Trying something new often requires courage

Finding the strength to summon up courage is itself a benefit. Once released, your courage grows and swells. How wonderful to open up to a flood of courage and be carried on its waves to unknown, exciting destinations.

Trying something new opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new

How often are you faced with an opportunity to try something totally new? We want you to come and enjoy an experience that you would not ordinarily have exposed yourself to and who knows, you may discover a love for something you had no idea would capture your imagination.

Trying something new keeps you from becoming bored

We all need to be challenged from time to time – personal growth does not happen by doing the same thing day after day after day.

I wish I could remember the Tutor’s name, she was a successful writer who wrote song lyrics for operas and plays for Radio (a medium that had fuelled my love of writing in the first place).

We started the day, a motley crew of women – not really sure why we were there and what finding your voice really meant – is it assertiveness or something? After the first exercise – forming an acrostic with our names, we were inspired. We all read ours aloud and it was amazing that in a few short words, so much of our story came spilling out. One lady, Sally, moved us all – she spontaneously produced, simply beautiful poetry that moved us all.

The tutor was skilful, we wrote from the heart and then she picked out every gramma rule that we had used, without realising it. Enjambment, alliteration, repetition, structure, plotting – we all did it! Grammar without fear!

By the end of the day, we were all excited and full of fire – exchanging numbers and deciding to meet up regularly to write.

I nearly missed it all.

Thankfully, fate has a way of treading on our toes – and thank goodness it does.

I am sharing this, dear reader, not because I imagine my life is that interesting, but with a hope and desire, that you, too, will untie the apron strings of our own procrastination and choose to live, deeply and passionately.

So, tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up? 

 

Easy like Sunday Morning…

herbal-tea

Oh! Isn’t waking up on a Sunday morning delightful? No rushing around, no alarm clock or to do list. You can simply slip back into bed with a cup of tea and cosy between the sheets while the soft grey light of February invites hibernation. I’ve been using the wonderful iPad app to catch up with bloggers, it seems to be easier to find and discover new blogs and much nicer to read than the News,- it is well after 11 when I finally emerge, with no raised blood pressure .. and blissful ignorance of politics and economics.

romancing-the-ordinary-book-review

I am wallowing in sensuality  this year- mostly guided by Sarah Brethenach’s Romancing the Ordinary – A year of every day indulgences – I can’t recommend it enough. In our busy lives it is so easy to lose sight of the amazing every day experiences -all it requires is a little focus and attention.

February

Cold, grey, wet, muddy mornings make the shortest month seem the longest. But lingering afternoons and pink sunsets hold out promise. Like matters of the heart, February is full of surprise, contradiction and the spell of the sensuous. Cherish your romantic impulses. Succumb to cabin fever. Indulge in armchair adventures, unusual sleuths, film noir. Become your own courtesan. Light your own fire. Have a clandestine affair with contentment. Play with your own food, hide under the covers. Rediscover, red lips, nails and shoes. Slip on bangles or slip into silk. Trade the treadmill for the Tango. Chocolate becomes you, so show off your curves. Remember flirting is good for the soul. Make peace with your past. Lose your heart to Life.

Doesn’t it make you want to snuggle deep, savour every moment of what February has to offer? The other wonderful delight at this time of year  is the chance to see the sunrise at a normal waking hour. There is nothing quite so beautiful as seeing a day unfold while the kettle gently boils, watch it for 10 minutes before returning to a warm bed.

separte-eggs

Sunday morning breakfasts are also something to savour, there is no hurry to be out the door, no phone calls that require our attention, no bags to pack or sandwiches to make… just time to relish – conversation over the breakfast table – fluffy omelettes and dark black tea. These soufflé omelettes need a little more time so they are perfect for a Sunday breakfast.

Place a pan on the heat to warm, while you separate three eggs. Whip the egg whites until they will stay in the bowl when you turn it upside down! Then quickly fold in the yolks carefully so as not to knock out all the air.

cover-with-cheese

Shuffle a knob of butter around the pan and then add the egg. Turn on the grill to high. while you grate  a small amount of parmesan and sprinkle generously, if you like your eggs cheesy. Then place under the grill to cook the top.

soufle-omlette

Turn out onto a plate and eat while they are still warm and fluffy. They really do taste delightful and airy -a good start to the day.. or maybe as a brunch…

Here’s to the delights of winter… and Sundays.. !

 

 

 

Low GI, low sugar, low fat flapjack Recipe

healhty-fruit-flapjack-recipe

When we visited Paris – I was delighted with the cakes and pastries mostly because they don’t use as much sugar as we do in the UK.

Like so many others at this time of the year, I am trying to eat less sugar and fat but weaning off sugar is not easy! I find 4 0’clock is when my body craves a sugary snack, so I thought I would come up with a healthy alternative – where I can indulge a little sweetness without nullifying my exercise sessions! While a lot of flapjacks in shops look healthy, they are usually packed with too much sugar or fat.

low-gi-flapjack-base

This is made in layers – for the base and crumble topping you need:

200g or 2 teacups of rolled oats

150g, or 1 1/2 tea cups of wholewheat flour

2 oz or 50g of Apple puree (apple sauce is a good alternative if you don’t make your own)

2 oz or 50g of butter or you can use coconut butter

Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste

The fruit layer

Fruit – cherries, blueberries, blackberries approx 1 lb

Arrow root

Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste

low-gi-flapjack-base

Firstly, mix the flour, oats into a bowl and rub in the butter, then add enough apple puree to bring the ingredients together – aim for crumbly rather than paste. Add a little sugar to taste, (if you bought your applesauce then it might contain enough sugar) Try to keep it to 1 tbsp if you can.

Set aside about 1/4 of this mixture for the topping, and then press the rest into a well greased, (or lined with parchment) swiss roll tin, (8 by 6 inch).

Bake in a medium oven (baking oven on aga, GM 6, 180c) for around 10 minutes. This makes the base nice and crisp.

cherries-thickened-with-arrowroot

While the base is baking, put your fruit into a saucepan and enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan and slowly bring to a simmer. You can add sugar or honey to taste, or without if you prefer. Once the fruit is soft take off the heat.

In a small cup, mix a little 1tsp of arrowroot with water to form a milky solution – add it to the fruit mixture and stir rapidly, until the sauce thickens.

low-calorie-oat-topping

Add the fruit topping to the cooked base and sprinkle with the reserved 1/4 topping. Return to the oven until the top is golden brown.

Cut into slices and allow to cool.

This recipe cuts down on the amount of butter by using apple sauce and you can reduce the sugar down to make it less sweet. If you are trying to wean yourself off sugar then this is a great alternative to cakes or the sugar laden flapjacks. These will stay in an airtight tin for a few days ! if you can leave them that long!

low-calorie-flap-jack-low-sugar

 

 

 

 

 

Promises Promises!

self-help-books

It is a hefty stack of books – just pulled from my shelves (most of my stuff is in storage so this is not the entire stack!)

These are all promises… and, because I like to be honest with you, these are broken promises. Most of these have gathered dust on the shelf – after an initial flick through they have been filed under ‘something to do one day…’ the problem, as you may already know is that ‘one day’ is never ‘today’.

This is the time of year when; urged by the media, we sit with that beautiful blank page diary and see opportunity. January offers a tantalizing chance to change which, in my case, reverts to a failure hangover mid January – which is the most depressing time of the year.

Maybe you don’t collect books, maybe you collect fabric, or wool or paper as a promise that one day you will actually use them. Yet, and I am confident that I am not alone on this, craft materials, books all sorts of promises and dreams pile up without ever being used.

Last year, a lovely man got in touch with me, he needed help as his wife, an avid and talented crafter, had passed away. I visited his home to see a huge collection of items that filled their home – and it really brought home to me that time is not infinite.

So.. over the next few days I hope to sit and make one more promise to myself.

I will give myself time – to sift about for what really matters to me and that begins with disconnecting from the ‘collective’ more commonly known as ‘media’

You see, I have noticed of late, that while Pinterest appears to be something creative – it is counterproductive for me.  All the time I spend pinning could be time I am actually doing something. And there are times when my creations that I was so proud of a moment ago, hold up very badly against the talented souls on Pinterest. The pins that appear in my feed are from people with extraordinary talent – where are the ordinary folk like me? Oh and while I am on the subject -I have also lost count of the times I have followed a link to a website where the original idea is lost among the advertising… (ok I will stop there before my rant gets any stronger)

While it is also great to fill my feed with spiritually uplifting groups – they are counteracting each other. I have created a vision board and imagined a new wonderful life, but I also realise that another way to happiness is mindfulness..and what is so wrong with my life right now anyway?

I love the concept of minimalism but it contradicts the creative in me – do you really need another drawing? or a painting? a new vintage style dress or a pot holder?

I like the concept of The Secret that we attract what we project… but have an issue with all illness or conflict in our lives is our own creation… how then does a baby create cancer?

So without a bit of a diet from these things it is hard to get out my head what is sparking my inner magpie and what is sparking my soul. Two very different things.

With the Christmas break falling so well this year, I have lots of time available.. so here goes. I am switching off the computer now… promise!